If you had have asked me at half-time on Thursday night whether this column was going to be remotely positive about either the Roosters or the Cowboys, the answer would have been no.
We are so close to kick-off that I can almost hear Rabs on my TV.
The excitement for this NRL season starting is two-fold: because the game we love will be back soon, and secondly, because it will be a season like no other.
There has never been a season suspended and restarted like this: training strained, fans locked out, media juggling TV rights, and competitions all over the world shut down. This is an unprecedented and unpredictable premiership competition.
Subsequently, fans are frothing for football.
To get a better idea of the different reasons people are feeling so energised leading up to the most anticipated season of the century, I asked a diverse range of fans about what they are looking forward to most.
Mathew Bungard is a breaking news reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald, and writing about the NRL. He is also the straight-shooting host of the rugby league podcast NRL Boom Rookies.
He laments the time that has been taken away from him, as it’s the social aspects that he loves about rugby league.
“It’s the conversations I have with my grandfather, my little cousin, with all my friends, the people I talk to every day on the internet and in real life. It is something we do take for granted, until it’s taken away from us,” he says.
The restarting of seasons is not just the players being able to kick off again, it is also the resumption of relationships. It is the kick-off for families and friends coming together and sharing a common love again.
Mary Konstantopoulos is the owner and founder of the powerful media force Ladies Who League. Along with her successful ABC podcast, she is a member of the Women In League sub-committee and an expert writer for The Roar.
Konstantopoulos is straight-up ready to be a fan again, longing to wave the flag high at Bankwest.
“I am looking forward to coming back, with my rugby league family, and cheering on the Eels to lots of victories this year,” she says.
“I’m also looking forward to the women’s game coming back in all its glory!”
The lens that we view most sports through is a team. It’s who we follow through the season. It will be great to get back in touch with that team, and the family of supporters around the men’s and women’s games.
Matt Church is the coach of the PNG Hunters. He was an assistant coach at the Melbourne Storm, and has been a rugby league fan for as long as he can remember.
He is eagerly anticipating watching the first hit-up to see who it is that gets folded in half. But more seriously he misses the structure.
“I just love the game,” he says. “I love the structure and routine that it provides those who participate in and around the game.”
The weekly rhythms of the team lists, injury updates, training reports, tips and finally weekend games have been sorely missed. Resuming a normal weekly rugby league schedule cannot come fast enough for fans, players, coaches and administrators.
Nat Galddin is the host and creator of the Rugby League in America podcast. He has extensive training and experience in sporting coaching, and is often the go-to guy when discussing rugby league’s growth in the United States.
Galddin is really excited about the possibility of coaches and teams designing new ways of approaching a season.
“Short seasons like this, coaches will have to come at it slightly differently,” he says.
“Game time is game time. But condition, training, lead-up, all of that is going to be different, and I am really excited about it.”
Galddin’s love for this once-in-a-lifetime championship is infectious.
“This is different,” he says. “It is not going to be like this every time. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be once, and it’s going to be a really intriguing season.”
Alby Talarico is the director of the Newtown Jets club and is a rugby league commentator for Steele Sports. While he is trying to salvage a difficult year for his historic foundation club, he is still lifted with the excitement of the upcoming NRL season.
“I’m looking forward to getting sport back on the telly,” he says.
“That’s the most important thing… [it’ll] be great to have rugby league back on the big screen.”
Former Legend is a self proclaimed social media influencer from the sports comedy podcast Full Credit to the Boys. With his years of experience in and around the game, he takes a more comical view of what he is most looking forward to.
“More Roosters losses!” is one thing he proudly announced. He also touched on a longing for the return to Friday nights drinking beer and watching the rugby league, rather than old movies.
“I am looking forward to having cracks at players who are afraid to tackle, rather than players who are afraid to get a needle,” he says.
“But most of all, I am looking forward to the Wests Tigers mysteriously and magically snatching ninth from the jaws of the top eight.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Michael Adams is a rugby league historian. He is host and head researcher for the podcast the Rugby League Digest, which is currently delivering a long and thorough investigation of the Super League war in Australia.
Due to this, Adams has a different take: he has been happy the games have been postponed. It has meant that he has been able to get a lot of research done during the would-be NRL-filled weekends.
However, the magic of this moment in time is not lost on him.
“What I am most excited about goes back to that idea of history,” he says.
“This is an unprecedented time for us, even outside of rugby league. But within rugby league, everything about it… The footy coming back and how precarious that is: one coronavirus and it’s all shut down again. Or the questions around the viability of the competition and teams in it long term. It feels that so much is still up in the air. And as someone who is so deeply interested in history and who loves rugby league, what a time to be alive!”
What a time indeed. Blow that whistle ref.